Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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2 What is diagnosis?

As you have seen, some parents develop early and well-founded concerns about their infant’s development. Specialist assessment is important, even if this serves to rule out autism. The fact that a child is, for instance, late in developing language, shy, or plays in an unusual way does not necessarily mean that the child has autism. By contrast, some parents may notice nothing unusual about their child’s development until he or she goes to school, when teachers report that the child is troubled by the presence of other children, by the physical environment of the school, or in other ways. Parents in this situation may be surprised and shocked that autism is suggested as a possible basis for their child’s difficulties. Some individuals are well into adulthood, feeling perhaps different from others, but not knowing why, before they are formally diagnosed. Finally, it is thought that many individuals in countries like the UK have undiagnosed autism, and in many Lower and Middle Income Countries (LMIC) around the world, this is sadly the rule rather than the exception. In all these different situations, formal diagnosis is the ‘gold standard’ for deciding whether or not an individual meets the criteria for an autism spectrum diagnosis, but is not always readily available.

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